An Investigation of a Computer Training Company's Migration to a New Distance Learning Platform and the Implementation of an Online Professional Development Program

An Investigation of a Computer Training Company's Migration to a New Distance Learning Platform and the Implementation of an Online Professional Development Program

Denis Rudd (New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, USA) and Carianne Bernadowski (Robert Morris University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0978-3.ch065
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Abstract

The purpose of the study was to determine if the Training Partner Program was successful in preparing trainers to use a new distance learning platform. Results indicate the program was a success in improving self-efficacy, engagement, and collaboration among trainers. Additionally, characteristics of online trainers are identified. Online learning in higher education, business training, and elementary/secondary schools is increasing exponentially and developing effective professional development programs to prepare instructors is of paramount importance. The current study provides valuable insight for any training managers or educators developing activities and exercises to train their faculty on distance learning software and systems.
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Online Professional Development

Online professional development is a relatively new phenomenon in the literature, and this new, innovative type of online professional development has dramatically increased as technologies have advanced (Brown & Green, 2003). Professional development, in an online format, has to take on a new persona that integrates the essentials of professional development but also effectively incorporates online components. Online learning or distance education is similar to brick and mortar education in that it includes the triad of instructor, learners and content. Online instructors need effective, evidence-based professional development in order to successfully meet the diverse population in which they serve. Professional development trainers, one would argue, are no different than teachers in that they are facilitators of learning and partners in inquiry. With that said, online training must be accountable for engaging learners, building rapport, and fostering ongoing development and support in an electronic format that differs significantly from what we envisioned professional development to be ten years ago.

More recently, the role of online instructor/trainer has moved from transactional to transformative in that they must consider their role differently than in the past. Within this vein, online professional development should include active engagement, ongoing discussion and construction of new learning. Laurillard (1994) argued the importance of discussion and reflection during online learning, and Hiltz and Turoff (1978) identified that facilitators must be cognizant of the need for an online environment that is supportive, engaging, and stimulating in order for participants to construct knowledge. Construction of knowledge is often operationalized through reflection. Moreover, Tagg (1994) defined a facilitator of professional development as “one that motivates, provides support, and stimulates” (p. 40), and involves participants in multiple opportunities to engage with other students and/or professionals. This sentiment holds true today in the online training atmosphere.

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